Analysis: Concealed-carry, pension defeats show Quinn shooting blanks
BY DAVE MCKINNEY Springfield Bureau Chief July 9, 2013 7:22PM
Updated: August 11, 2013 6:47AM
SPRINGFIELD — Hoarse and unusually agitated, Gov. Pat Quinn went before cameras Tuesday to explain his resounding defeat on concealed-carry legislation and to tell voters one more time why he couldn’t exert his will over a Democratic-led state Legislature.
“Today was a bad day for public safety in Illinois,” the governor said.
But in fact, it was Quinn himself who had the bad day, perhaps one of the worst of his one-and-a-half terms as governor.
The Democratic governor was resoundingly mowed down by lawmakers in his effort to rewrite portions of the gun bill – even on something as basic as requiring a concealed-carry licensee to tell a cop if he or she is armed and to strengthen the state’s hand in keeping concealed weapons out of the hands of a gun owner who presents a “clear and present danger.”
As if that drubbing wasn’t enough, Quinn also endured a flagrant thumbing of the nose from lawmakers who ignored his deadline to get a pension deal to his desk, marking yet another line in the sand from the governor that carried no real meaning.
Indeed, what Tuesday demonstrated was that the governor — at least on guns and pensions — can’t deliver on his top priorities in Springfield, a damning realization as he stares into the not-so-distant future when he could face a two-way primary challenge from Attorney General Lisa Madigan and former White House Chief of Staff William Daley.
One could argue Quinn has set out on a path to seek his second full term by running against the Legislature, whose members consistently rate lower in popularity than even the chronically unpopular Quinn.
But that strategy, as his concealed-carry and pension defeats show, leaves Quinn looking weak, which the governor strained to explain away Tuesday during his news conference.
“With respect to working and getting the job done, I think the people of Illinois know I work every day for their common good,” Quinn said.
Daley, meanwhile, managed to deliver the epitaph on Quinn’s bad day, even before the House and Senate amassed bipartisan super majorities to kill the governor’s changes to a law that now makes Illinois the 50th state allowing gun owners to take their weapons to public places.
“To propose this in an amendatory veto statement five days ago and then not spend the next five days putting the votes together on this as opposed to going to church and praying for it, even though prayer is powerful, I think is a real abdication of leadership,” Daley told reporters.
Madigan, a defender of gun-control, deftly stood on the sidelines Tuesday and relied upon the overrides of the House and Senate to effectively relieve her of a decision she’d been delaying for months: whether to appeal a federal court’s December ruling tossing out Illinois’ concealed-carry prohibition.
Madigan’s office said the Legislature answered the federal court’s order to change state law within 180 days, making the need for any appeal moot. Effectively, Tuesday’s votes spared the attorney general from being excoriated as Quinn was — even by members of his own party on the floors of the House and Senate.
“I think he needs to learn how to count,” said state Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline). “Anyone who doesn’t understand that we’re going to run this bill over his objections doesn’t understand government.”
But state Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) served up a more bitter pill for his party’s governor.
“The governor has not led here, and that’s why we’re here today,” said Franks, a frequent Quinn critic. “As far as I’m concerned, I believe the governor has been negligent in his duties, plain and simple.”
So now, it’s up to Quinn to deliver on the “consequences” he threatened against lawmakers earlier this week for their continued recalcitrance — and that could involve him, as early as Wednesday, stripping out funding for legislative salaries in the one remaining Fiscal 2014 budget bill awaiting his signature.
Would he really do that, the governor was asked Tuesday. Quinn paused uneasily and refused to rule it out: “We’ll be working on that this week.”
Almost like Rod Blagojevich, who built his ill-fated gubernatorial career around running against a Democratic legislative majority in Springfield, Quinn seems on the same inexplicable and politically costly path.